THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA
Once upon a time . . . there was a prince who, after wandering the land searching for a wife, returned to his castle and told his unhappy parents that he had been unable to find a bride.
Now, this young man was difficult to please, and he had not been greatly taken with any of the noble young ladies he had met on his travels. He was looking for a bride who was not only beautiful, but also well-born, with the elegance and manners found only in those of noble birth and background.
One evening, during a fierce hurricane that had suddenly blown up, a persistent knocking was heard at the castle door. The prince's father sent a servant to find out who was there. Standing on the steps, lit by flashes of lightning, in the driving rain, was a young lady. "I'm a princess," she said," seeking shelter for myself and my page. My carriage has broken down and the coachman can't repair it till tomorrow."
In the meantime, the prince's mother had appeared to welcome the guest. She stared disapprovingly at the girl's muddy wet garments, and decided to find out if she really was of gentle birth.
"Prepare a soft soft bed in the Blue Room," she said, "I'll come myself and make sure everything is in order." She told the servants to lay a pile of soft quilts on top of the mattress, and under the mattress she hid a pea. Then she showed the girl to her room. The rain beat down all night and lightning streaked the sky. In the morning, the prince's mother asked her guest: "Did you sleep well? Was the bed comfortable?" The girl politely replied:
"lt was a lovely soft bed, so soft that I could feel something hard under the mattress. This morning, I discovered it was a pea. It kept me awake all night!" The prince's mother offered her apologies, before rushing off to her son.
"A real princess at last! Just think! She could feel the pea I hid under the mattress! Now, only a well-born lady could do that!
The prince had finally found the bride of his dreams. After the wedding, the pea was placed inside a gold and crystal box and exhibited in the castle museum.